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E-Democracy.Org sees Issues Forums as the necessary, lower cost "egg" and greater democracy and community engagement online as the "chicken."

Below are a number of possible chickens. In the future, we plan to submit the best ideas to potential funders as we did with the Knight News Challenge.


Block Heads - E-Democracy.Org's secure open source platform for neighbor to neighbor communication

    • Request: $1,000,000 - 3 Years - $2,000,000 Total
    • Description: Get connected with and exchange information with your closest neighbors on your street via a secure open source platform. Imagine thousands upon thousands of small 10 to 100 household online groups actively using local information and news in their interactions with each other. To attract usage, the system will be positioned as the best trusted non-commercial host for e-organizing block clubs by local police departments and neighborhood associations (reactions to local crime are the strongest motivator for more organized block connections, second is development). While many police and neighborhood groups broadcast alerts one-way, our system will turn the power equation upside down by encouraging ongoing resident to resident communication and strategic use of local news and information to broadly strengthen community and public participation. This private and secure micro-scale two-way environment will connect people and issues up to "public" local information neighborhood and community-wide online forums and placeblogs. To help launch the network, we propose a well publicized mid-winter "National Night In" that replicates the summer time National Night Out experience of meeting your neighbors yearly at a block club party.
    • Users: Assuming a significant promotional budget, this system will be used by block leaders to help them create useful listing of their neighbors to share via block clubs and resident associations. These leaders will be empowered to communicate electronically via a simple e-mail "phone tree" to those neighbors who have provided their e-mail address. This will then lead to the opportunity for reliable two-way communication among extremely local neighbors on a mass scale based on natural and fitting patterns of communication. In addition to communication, the system will draw from third-party sources of local information and news to provide links to that which is most geographically relevant to that online block club. Online news and citizen media site will also be able to provide branded access within their sites.
    • Why us: E-Democracy.Org recently received a grant to build neighborhood forums in high immigrant/low income/communities of color in Minneapolis and St. Paul. We are one of the few organizations fully dedicated to the use of open source software and open sharing of lessons in support of hyper, hyper-local networking among neighbors.

Voter Mesh - E-Democracy.Org's open source voter guide network and online candidate debate platform

    • Request: $1,000,000 - 3 Years - $1,000,000 Total
    • Description: Voter guides are upside down. Rather than use limited resources to collect, edit, and distribute voter guide content in text, images, audio, and video, essential voter guides are proprietary and limited in coverage. We propose a highly distributed model that includes:
      • Open source voter guide modules for the top content management systems used by the media, voter education non-profits, and governments that allow both syndication and aggregation of content.
      • Creation of sharing standards for voter guide and who is on my ballot content as well as a Creative Commons scheme for broad distribution of content within media and other branded sites. Advertising-based sites will be able to carry and contribute to the voter guide content without undermining their business models.
      • A unified search across the entire voter guide network.
      • Integration with our MyBallot, open source "who is on my ballot" look-up service as well as other similar platforms via open APIs and standards.
      • Efficient single source collection of openly distributed content leading to "Talking Ballots" and video sample ballots with various length videos and audio statements submitted by candidates. Candidate audio may be submitted via universally accessible low production cost telephone access and converted into MP3 via an automated system.
      • In addition to the unified voter guide network, an advanced open source platform will be developed to support state and local online candidate debates. From our first "e-debate" in 1994 through to our most recent in the 2006 Minnesota Gubernatorial race, we know how to do this. In addition to the platform, a "how to" guide for online news and citizen media sites wishing to do this on their own website will be developed.
    • Users: Voters, students, candidates, the media/online news, citizen media sites, non-partisan non-profit voter education organizations and government election offices.
    • Why us: We hosted the world's election web site in 1994 and now is the time to take this field another major step forward. We have more experience with online candidate debates - including direct state and local experience - than anyone anywhere. We've monitor trends in this space globally and Steven Clift has presented numerous times on the world's best and well funded online voter guide efforts from South Korea. In addition, multi-lingual versions of the voter guide software and the ability to generate print guides from an online editing base will provide huge value to developing democracies as highlighted in the Election Administration and Internet paper written by Steven Clift and commissioned by IFES/USAID. See:

Democracy Pulse: E-Democracy.Org's comprehensive package for upgrading local democracy through information and interactivity

    • Request: $1,500,000 - 3 Years - $2,500,000 Total
    • Description: This project consists of three major symbiotic parts:
      • Public Meeting - An open source tool for syndicated use by local news and citizen media sites to upgrade the local public meeting experience. We must bring alive the old public meeting schedules that appear in print with anywhere, any time personalized online access to meeting notices, agendas, minutes, handouts, recordings and more. Public meeting data standards and education on updating open meeting laws that require online notification of meetings with content dissemination requirements will be included.
      • Who Represents Me - An open source and Creative Commons-based directory of all elected and appointed officials with responsible tools for contacting your specific elected officials. Media sites and others will be able to syndicate the look-up service within their sites. Governments will be directly engaged to submit contact information on an ongoing basis in a standardized format. A Wikipedia-style local media-driven effort will to fill the gaps.Phase one will cover the United States and Canada with potential global coverage. With additional funding, the system will be turned onto media itself with "Who Covers What" to make reporters more accessible to local citizens.
      • Online Townhall - Just as members of Congress extend their remarks in the Congressional Record, citizens will now be able to publicly add their testimony online tied to specific in-person meetings and agenda items locally. This open source and brandable system will be more deliberative than often frustrating in-person public hearings and may also be used for stand-alone special online events (lasting just a few days or weeks). After pilot deployment, and a how-to guide for the media, the system will be launched globally with a special "Citizen Forum Week" co-hosted by the world's local mayors and local media organizations in communities around the world.
      • This proposal may be broken into separate parts in round two upon request. A separate Democaster proposal furthers the "democracy pulse."
    • Users: Imagine what we could do if local government and media web sites put out an alway up-to-date XML "democracy signal" combining the "what new" web feed and "what is" Google sitemap concept to help make the Internet an aggregatable "democracy network by nature" rather than as an after thought. While initial end users include all Internet users interested local issues, over the long run with this significant investment, we will change the way government, media and others present their information. Therefore, eventually other web sites and online services will find great uses for the information we provide directly or have knocked loose with our standards-based "democracy signal" network.
    • Why us: You can't aggregate what doesn't exist online. You can't easily integrate what appears online in thousands of different formats. We fully appreciate that this effort requires a respectful and collaborative connection with government and media associations on a global basis. We are one of the only organizations with the connections required to get started quickly and effectively.

Democaster: E-Democracy.Org's open source platform for live and on-demand webcasting/podcasting of public meetings and community events

    • Request: $500,000 - 3 Years - $750,000 Total
    • Description: Webcasting of public meeting and community events is too expensive and lacks the support required to make it the norm. A few years of investment and promotion will lead to sustained and distributed efforts across the whole of democratic sectors. Democaster will deploy an advanced live and on-demand open source multimedia environment for webcasting (audio or video) and on-demand podcasting of public meetings and community events. This open source and non-proprietary platform will bring the cost of webcasting down so low that the benefit of doubling meeting "attendance" from 10 to 20 will justify the effort to push "record." Steven Clift, E-Democracy.Org, built a working Democaster prototype for the UK National Local E-Democracy Project in 2005 connecting a number of open source and free to use tools including IceCast2 and Streamtranscoder using the only non-proprietary audio format Ogg (MP3 is proprietary and was used as a secondary access option). It focused on audio and integrated automatic on-demand archives and podcasts via web feeds. This proposal will leverage that work and build Democaster modules for multiple open source content management systems to make the tool set highly accessible. Key new innovations will be the integration of speaker phone to webcast tools to make the only tool needed to webcast a small public meeting as decent speaker phone and an open source web-based recording tool to turn any laptop with a microphone jack or webcam a low low cost meeting capture tool.By connecting Democaster to the proposed Public Meeting tool (see "Democracy Pulse" proposal), real-time and asynchronous interaction among Internet participants and those attending meetings in person will be supported. Meeting handouts will be shared online and with process that allow any distributed document to be gathered via a USB jumpdrive or potentially a scanner in the room which quickly outputs to PDF files for instant download.
    • Users: Media, journalists, citizens, governments, everyone.
    • Why us: We've started work on this and know that real challenge will be creating demand from citizens to foster media and government involvement NOT the technology.

Specify. Then Build. - E-Democracy.Org's proposal to leverage competitive spirit to develop innovative citizen media tools

    • Request: $425,000 - 2 Years - $425,000 Total
    • Description: Problem: Low budget citizen media projects pick their software, the craft a hidden or undisclosed specification based on that software. Solution: Separate the specification process and make it highly public, then have fun challenging leading open source content management communities to build high need citizen media modules. We proposed to tap the talent of multiple open source development communities to implement a number of citizen media features in a competitive manner with prizes and funded programming sprints. Citizen media practitioners will first be tapped to compose very public and very open specifications on the top three to five software needs for their community - this will include online and in-person convening. Then programmers active in different open source developer communities will be invited to join a competition to build working software via funded programming sprints with final product prizes awarded based on a number of factors. Tools would then be released as modules for use across multiple open source platforms.
    • Users: Citizen media and online news site hosts as well as any user of an open source content management system
    • Why us: We are in position to convene a number of partners required to make this an exciting project.

Community Survey

    • Request: $130,000 - 2 Years - $170,000 Total
    • Description: The problem: Online polls are a joke. Online comments reflect the extremes and the most vocal. Telephone surveys are expensive, miss huge swatches of the population, and rarely focus locally. The solution? We will not know until we try. We propose a pilot online community survey platform designed to engage ten percent of households in Minneapolis and St. Paul on an ongoing basis. Monthly question sets will come from both local institutions like the neighborhood newspapers, non-profit and community groups and local government as well as through a deliberative selection and "balanced" drafting effort among interested participants. The anonymized results will be weighed based on demographic data and shared "as is" for all to see. This model is used for government only online surveys in Issy France and we want to democratize the model and compare the results with a set of alternative and traditionally scientific public opinion polls. Who knows, perhaps we will discover and legitimate and low cost mechanism to survey local citizens about important issues in their community to improve decision-making and democratic accountability.
    • Users: Getting beyond those who already show up will be essential for this survey platform to work in a meaningful way. With aggressive outreach - even some door to door in less represented areas, we'll engage more people in local public affairs than any process outside of occasional voting.
    • Why us: We propose to add this democratic online feature in our two most mature and largest local e-democracy communities. We are a trust neutral host that can gather the public and media institutions required to make this work.

Original Conversation. Original News. - E-Democracy.Org's proposal to reverse the premise of citizen media by spinning news out of online conversation

    • Request: $185,000 - 2 Years - $185,000 Total
    • Description: Issues Forums, E-Democracy.Org's civil online town hall format flips the model of citizen media upside down. Instead of relying on the unlikely unsustainable generation of volunteer citizen reporting to generate conversation, we start with "original" conversation that generates original reporting across the competitive local media market. We'd like to take this pragmatic approach a step further by pro-actively fostering original reporting and news across our three nation Issues Forum network as well as tap local blogs in those communities. This proposal includes enhancement of the open source platform we use for conversation to allow tagging and display of news as it spins out from our network (as well as rating options). In addition, a micro-Digg-like recommender button will be offered to local blogs to allow people to nominate local posts and comments for new coverage. We will hire at least three part-time journalists - one in the U.S., U.K. And New Zealand to model active coverage of online public spaces along the lines of how the media covers of public meetings, rallies, etc. By democratizing online gatherings through local news, we seek to create a further incentive for greater participation in local interactive media. This effort will leverage our recent grant support for online citizen engagement and media in rural areas and neighborhoods with larger immigrant populations.
    • Users: This project will expand the user base of local online forums and blogs by creating a well-edited journalist window into the online town meeting of the future. It will also provide an incentive to those used to producing unsubstantiated chatter online to upgrade their content to more journalistic levels by providing easy access to a larger audience.

Local Mashup Tool - E-Democracy.Org's proposal for a nifty easy to use open source content management system modules for aggregating and displaying user-generated content from multiple popular sites

    • Request: $80,000 - 1 Years - $80,000 Total
    • Description: For novice citizen media sites, quickly gathering and presenting the local user generated content is a pain. We seek to ease that pain. Imagine this ... Enter geographic tags: minneapolis Enter content tags: news, politics, government, community [Generate Mashup] ... Embed this HTML in a page to display. The Local Mashup Tool is a proposed open source module based on a shared specification for Drupal, Joomla, Plone, and GroupServer to support the easy aggregation of geographically tagged content by entering one set of keywords/tags. By encouraging the use of a particular or unique tag across a community, citizen media project can instantly leverage and display local content from YouTube, Technorati,, etc. We will monkey with APIs so you can focus on the content. This tool will create a greater incentive for the creation of locally focused user content based on a real-time channel to such content for a community.
    • Users: Citizen media websites and the hundreds of thousands of sites using the major open source content management systems for the benefit of their site visitors.
    • Why us? In the 2006 election we experimented with this concept in a section of our online candidate debate we called Voter Voices. We encouraged people to respond to the candidates using the unique tag "mnpolitics" and aggregated on one page YouTube videos, Flickr photos, links, podcasts, blog posts, etc. The page was ugly, the content was beautiful. We want to automate this and make the content experience pleasing. See:

Who Cares - Local Solutions Social Network - E-Democracy.Org's proposal for a revolution in online news and citizen media that moves us from "reader" comments to real "citizen" participation and public problem-solving

    • Request: $400,000 - 3 Years - $800,000 Total
    • Description: A syndicated, locally brandable community knowledge sharing network that fosters information exchange on popular public issues in the news facing most communities. This information network is for citizens who want to get things done to improve their communities. It will stand in stark contrast to the negativity generated by most reader comments online. Local media sites, preserving their own online advertising, will be able offer a window from relevant stories into an interactive commons that connects people across multiple communities to each other. This local solutions network will provide access to comparative news, information, and peer to peer question and answer exchange on issues like local crime prevention, water quality, recycling, youth programs, residential traffic calming, and many more quality of life topics frequently in local news. An example: A local story on dog parks would generate a deep link into a collection of resources on dog parks across multiple communities and allow online news readers to quickly become engaged with others interested in such community building topics on a locally-relevant global basis.
    • Users: This syndicated open source system will first attract those citizens who want to get things done locally and see value in learning from others in similar situations far away. Online news sites interested in complementing the most reactionary environment of online comments will be quite interested in this service as long as it is an affordable option they can embed in their online visitors experience. E-Democracy.Org will pilot the service across their international network of ten communities where we see similar topics emerge in different communities thousands of miles apart every day. This will provide a cost effective development environment before syndicating the network widely.

Local Democracy Tune-up - E-Democracy.Org's proposal for citizen-led local democracy online "audits" of online content and features provided by government and media

    • Request: $75,000 - 2 Years - $75,000 Total
    • Description: E-Democracy.Org's network of local volunteer groups are promoting use of local democratic information from local news online to online access to government decision-making processes. We propose a local democracy online audit that will help tune-up local democracy for the information age. By identifying dozens of content items as well as technology services and features, we seek to help a community grade its performance, compare itself to other communities, and track improvements over time. The independent audit will cover the online offering of local media, government and political groups. Example items and features to measure that should be online in a local community are meeting notices, personalized alerts on new content based on topic or geography, e-mail newsletters from elected officials, web forms or e-mail addresses to directly contact reporters online, transparent comment removal policies on media sites, etc. The goal is to motivate deep and meaningful online access to local democracy.
    • Users: The Democracy Tune-up will be used by local citizen media and online citizen engagement groups broadly. Self-assessment by governments and media organizations will also be likely as would use by academics in large comparative studies. In the end, all citizens will benefit from a visible expression of citizen demand for better access to local information, decision-making, and media accountability online.

Citizen Media Online Conference and Community of Practice - Democracies Online and E-Democracy.Org proposal for a virtual wing ding that brings the thousands of Knight News Challenge applicants and others together online for the best darn e-conference ever followed by an ongoing online community of practice

    • Request: $150,000 - 4 Years - $150,000 Total
    • Description: We want your list :-) or at least to partner to invite Knight News Challenge applicants in past, current and future rounds to participate in a yearly citizen media online conference. The conference will have two "real-time" days as part of a highly structured, speaker and exchange rich two week asynchronous e-conference. The conference itself will demonstrate use of open source tools to the greatest extent possible to demonstrate a state of the art online conference involving at least one thousand participants. The conference will run yearly for three years with a modest sliding scale participation fee covering part of the cost each year. Virtual breakout session in multiple languages are envisioned. Following the first conference, a well facilitated and promoted online community of practice will be launched. The Online-News e-mail list provides a semi-private space for exchange of practices and ideas among those involved in the professional online news community. All of the applicants to the first two rounds of the Knight News Challenge will be invited to join a new Citizen-Media online groups (combined e-mail list/web forum/massive multi-editor blog hosted on the GPL open source GroupServer platform). This proposal will combine the facilitation skill of E-Democracy.Org with hosting among the family of Democracies Online online communities of practice -
    • Users: People involved with or interested in citizen media from all around the world..
    • Why us: The Democracies Online site hosts a number of online communities of practice related to online citizen engagement around the world.

More Ideas

    • News Tools for Neighborhood and Rural Life Forums
    • Multilingual Neighborhood Forum
  • Issues Forum Enhancements
  • Local Citizen Media Bootcamp
  • Local Connect - Tools with mySociety
  • Digital Citizenship Training - CC Media Module
  • Community 2.0 - Issues Forums 10 Languages
  • Participatory Audience - One Million for Local News and Interactivity - A broad promotional campaign to gather demand for local online news and citizen media and deliver it to local sites. The goal is to sign-up at least one million people who say they are interested in local news and information and through a regular series of e-mail newsletters and partnering with local sites to inform them of new citizen media projects, place blogs, forums as well as ...
  • Real Names. Real Communities. - Most online news and citizen media sites default public online comments to aliases and anonymity. Instead of reflecting or reporting community divisness the media online is now the engine of conflict. Instead of living the myth that no one knows if you are a dog online, particularly in the local context, technology is being used to encourage us to act like animals.

While anonymous speech has its place online, so does civil speech with the effective use of real names.

E-Democracy.Org proposes a partnership with ten media outlets interested in piloting real name strategies adapting our successful Issues Forum model. The approach will be generalized to blog comments, story comments, and online forums.

A preliminary phase will include a research with an academic partner to survey public and local community leader attitudes toward different styles of online speech geared toward local communities. This baseline data will inform a post-deployment evaluation of civility, deliberativeness, and agenda-setting through online interaction.

  • The Public View of Media Responsibility Online - Are responsible media organizations throwing their missions and reputations in the toilet by encouraging online interactivity that would never make it in print or on the air? Or are media organizations failing to open up real and exciting opportunities for the public to mix it up and have their say online in local communities?

In phase one, a balanced and diverse citizen panel of active news consumers wil be gathered to explore and articulate their expectations as well as make specific recommendations. In phase, two a survey of the public and journalists will seek to quantify support for principles and recommendations.

Example recommendations might include ensuring the ability of online readers to comment directly online to the reporter or editor of every story including wire services or quality guidelines for online comments and the use of real names or aliases.

Draft grant proposals:

  • Title: Title
    • Request: - Years - Total
    • Description:
    • Users:

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